We have so many choices to ponder when we consider what plan to choose, it can make our heads spin. I am asked each day about the myriad of diets that are being promoted in books or on the web.
The current ”sexy” diet is the Ketogenic Diet, originally researched many years ago as a diet to support people with epilepsy. This diet and lifestyle harkens back to our hunter gatherer days, and is described simply as extremely low carbohydrate, low to moderate protein and high in (hopefully) healthy fats.
I hear from quite a few folks that they tried this and it was not sustainable. They felt horrible and went back to their Standard American Diet (SAD) after a short attempt. For most people going from cheeseburger and fries to Keto is not the best path to success. In the Keto Reset classes I have been offering lately in the store, we first do a 21day (at least) Reset, shifting into a low-(ish) carb Paleo diet and when ready (there is a Mid Term exam) jump into Keto.
The ”paleo” diet is modeled after what our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic Age, which began about 750,000 to 500,000 years BCE, and lasted until the end of the last ice age about 10,500 years ago. During this time, human diets consisted of high quality and nutrient dense animal protein and fats, wild plants, insects, seafood, seeds, nuts and wild (mostly tart) fruits.
Because there were no feedlots, fats from wild animals were good quality and in the correct balance. Paleolithic diets supported our species’ survival because unlike a low-fat diet, available fat-soluble nutrients promoted their physical and mental health and longevity.
During the later stages of the Paleolithic Age, humans learned to use fire to cook, making it safe to eat more vegetable foods, whose ingestion before cooking would have frequently led to illness and often death from toxins present that were destroyed by cooking. Present-day edible plant life has over time been hybridized to remove most toxic compounds.
In his book, ”The Paleo Solution,” Robb Wolf describes himself as both an athlete and a scientist. The author indicates that his life path was profoundly affected by his experience growing up in a family with many common ailments including gallbladder problems, emphysema and arthritis.
As a child, Wolf once asked his mother if she would live to be 100 years old and she answered, ”If you were that old, you would hurt so much and you would not be able to get around. It would be miserable.”
Wanting to enjoy better health, he moved towards a vegetarian diet. He enjoyed the pots of rice, beans and abundant tofu, but was always hungry and developed a ”monstrous sweet tooth.” Many of his health problems worsened, his blood pressure became elevated and his cholesterol and triglyceride level soared. The high carbohydrate diet was not working.
He remained on this diet for several years believing it to be the best choice until his mother began to experience autoimmune problems as a reaction to the high grain/carbohydrate diet she was eating. Realizing he was experiencing some of the same symptoms as his mother, he began looking for a better way to eat.
Wolf found the Paleo diet, the foods eaten by our ancestral hunter-gatherers, described positively on the Internet. The sources described pre-human and human ancestors that thrived for three million years ”with a remarkably high level of health, eating only lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds and seasonal fruits and vegetables.”
Wolf’s health improved after he studied Paleolithic nutrition with Colorado State University Professor Loren Cordain, and he wrote his book to share what he has learned.
In this user-friendly book, the author draws the reader in with catchy titles for the various chapters. For example, the chapter describing digestion, the key to optimal health, is titled, ”Digestion: Where the Rubber Meets the Road.”
The chapter titled ”Grains and Leaky Gut or Keep Your Poop Where it Belongs” discusses negative health effects, such as chronic disruption and subsequent damage to the digestive tract of gluten and other problematic components of most grains.
Wolf states, ”Anything that damages the gut lining (including bacterial, viral and parasitic infections, as well as alcohol, grains, legumes and dairy) can predispose one to autoimmunity, multiple chemical sensitivities and allergies to otherwise benign foods.”
We are all different and do not all have the same dietary needs, but experience has taught me that a diet closer to what our hunter/gatherer ancestors ate may be a better choice for most people instead of a low fat, high carb diet as many promote. Listen to your body, and as author Michael Pollan says, ”Eat food, not to much, mostly plants.”
Make sure that whichever diet plan you choose, that half of your plate is loaded with veggies. More on the Keto version of the Paleo Diet to come. Salud!
Note: The next round of the six-week Keto-Reset (based on Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson) will start on April 4th, and you can reserve your free seat on Eventbrite; stop into the store for more info.
For more information on this and other health-related topics, come in to see me at the Eugene Natural Grocers store. We offer free classes and free one-on-one health coaching sessions, so call 541-345-3300. Find our store’s schedule of free classes at naturalgrocers.com/store-locations/eugene/